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The Harvard women’s hockey team is set to depart today for the 2003 Women’s Frozen Four in Duluth. In doing so, the Crimson will be moving far away—both physically and mentally—from its 7-2 loss to Dartmouth in Providence last Sunday. All the focus will be on beating Minnesota at 5 p.m. on Friday and winning the national championship on Sunday.
“Really there should be no more thought given to this past weekend except it’s just fuel to our fire to make sure we don’t let something like that happen again,” said captain Jamie Hagerman. “It’s just going to be a nice motivator for us to stay focused in practice and realize these are the last couple days of our season, and we have some choices to make.”
Harvard coach Katey Stone gave the Crimson some time off following its ECAC championship defeat. The team did not practice again until last night.
“We realize that it’s one game out of the season, and it’s not indicative of how we’ve done and how we’ll do in the next few days,” said freshman Julie Chu.
So while Harvard chooses to focus on its performance in the 27 unbeaten games prior to Sunday, the polls were not quite as forgiving.
Though Harvard maintained its No. 1 ranking in the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine, earning seven of 12 possible first-place votes, the Crimson fell to No. 2 for the first time since November in the USCHO.com poll. Harvard garnered only six of 15 first-place votes, falling one slot behind two-time defending champion Minnesota-Duluth, who earned the top position.
The distinction matters little, however. Women’s hockey does not operate like Division 1-A college football, where polls determine national championships. Instead, tournaments do.
There will be plenty of people to watch this weekend. Over 5,000 of 5,333 seats have been sold for Sunday’s championship game in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Last year’s final between Brown and Minnesota-Duluth at New Hampshire drew 3,102.
“It’s a great experience to be able to play in an NCAA championship,” Chu said. “I’m excited to see the support of the people, regardless of the team, supporting women’s hockey and seeing how women’s hockey should be played.”
Duluth coach Shannon Miller warned her team not to get too caught up in the spectacle.
“There’s a lot of hoopla,” Miller said. “The kids get caught up in the emotion, and it’s more tiring than they realize. You usually see that in the middle of competition. They’re going to have to find the right balance between ease and effort.”
Minnesota is bound to get the majority of the rest of the fan support. The Golden Gophers beat Harvard 4-3 in their only regular season meeting, way back in November.
“The good news is we’ve played them and we’ve beaten them,” said Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson after watching the selection announcement. “I’m sure they want to come back strong. I think we match up pretty well. In my opinion, it’s the toughest group this field has ever had.”
There was talk early yesterday that the NCAA was considering the postponement all collegiate championships if the U.S. goes to war with Iraq this week, but NCAA president Myles Brand announced later in the evening that all games would go ahead as scheduled.
—Staff writer David R. De Remer can be reached at email@example.com
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